Powerful blast kills seven soldiers, injures 14 in Kashmir (Third Lead)

July 19th, 2008 - 11:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Srinagar/New Delhi, July 19 (IANS) At least seven soldiers were killed and 14 injured when a powerful blast triggered by suspected guerrillas ripped apart an Indian Army vehicle on the outskirts of Jammu and Kashmir’s summer capital Saturday. According to the police, a pre-planted improvised explosive device (IED) went off targeting an army convoy near Narbal, 15 km from Srinagar, on the strategic Srinagar-Baramulla highway, which also leads to Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Earlier reports had said that 10 soldiers had been killed but the defence ministry in New Delhi late Saturday night confirmed the deaths of only seven soldiers.

A defence ministry statement said at least 14 soldiers were wounded in the blast that hit the bus, which was part of a heavily-escorted army convoy on its way to Srinagar from the frontier Kupwara district.

A senior police officer said: “The bus was destroyed in the bombing. The explosion led to disruption of traffic on the highway.”

Helicopters were pressed into service to airlift the wounded soldiers from the blast site, the police officer added.

“It was a deadly attack. I ran for security. I saw bystanders including some women crying,” said Abdul Rashid, an eyewitness.

Army soldiers escorting the convoy surrounded the blast site and launched a search operation. However, no one was arrested.

A spokesman of the Hizbul Mujahideen guerrilla group phoned a Srinagar-based news agency to claim responsibility for the attack.

Saturday’s attack comes a day after 35 people, including six security men, were wounded in a powerful grenade blast at Banihal in Jammu region.

This was the worst terror attack around Srinagar since March 19 when suspected militants triggered a powerful blast ripping off an overpass near the civil secretariat and left about two dozen people injured. The Hizbul Mujahideen and Al-Madina militant outfits had claimed responsibility for that attack.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony has condemned the militant attack, according to a press statement in New Delhi.

“This kind of cowardly attack will not deter the government from its path of holding free and fair elections (in Jammu and Kashmir) later this year,” Antony said.

Noting that the people of Kashmir “want peace and prosperity”, he said the government “will not be found wanting in crushing the evil designs of the militants”.

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